Monday, 7 March 2011

Monday's Musings: traits of the leaders of tomorrow

I wanted to share thoughts from A New Kind of Leadership (ANKLe) conference on the future leadership trends in the current generation of young people.  At a conference on Friday the main speaker, Barbara Harvey, shared her insights into Generation Y (those aged between 10 and 30) and the impact the main traits of this generation will have on the workplace.  Below are some of the key insights.

1. It is a generation that has grown up using IT technology from an early age which means that for the most part Gen. Ys prefer to make new connections online rather than face to face.  An example of this is that when they are getting ready to go up to University, they make contact with other freshers via facebook as a way of working out who they will go to dinner with on their first night!  This is borne out by the results of a recent meeting between ANKLers and Progressive Women.  Progressive Women found the techniques that we shared with them on how to build rapport quickly in face to face meetings really helpful.

2. Gen Ys appear to be keen to collaborate and in organisations this manifests itself as a need to be consulted about the strategy of the department/ organisation even if they are not part of the decision-making process.  It is a way to keep them engaged which is vital because they tend to be become disillusioned with organisations much more quickly than previous generations and have little loyalty.

3.  Interestingly because the education system Gen Ys have gone through has involved huge amounts of assessment from an early age, there is a tendency towards needing and wanting regular feedback.  This is everything from the boss checking in with them every morning through to regular comments on their performance.  It is fascinating to note that some companies have started to do a daily pulse to respond to this need, asking staff to indicate what kind of day they have had using smiley faces and following up personally with those who have not had a great day.  It is a great way to keep engagement high but the implications in terms of the bigger picture are that companies are going to have to revisit their annual performance systems and change them to reflect the way these people operate.

4.  Also this is a generation that has for the most part accomplished multi-tasking.  For example they are likely to have facebook open so that they can send instant messages to their friends whilst they are working and are listening to music at the same time.  This means conducting conference calls as part of work is an opportunity to do many other activities at the same time.  It also means that organisations are going to have to re-evaluation their protocols around the use of the internet if they want to keep these people.

5. Another key feature, in part due to technological advances, is the blurring between work and play.  Gen Ys are much more likely to be working on a Saturday morning or a Friday night if they are really engaged.  It makes one wonder about the impact on the divide between the personal and the professional.

6.  Finally they tend to be very values driven.  They want to see that the organisations they work for are actually making a difference in the world by having schemes that improve literacy and numeracy amongst the poorest in society for example. Unlike Generation X they do not just conform to the rules and buy into the idea that if they do that they will be successful and gain status.  That is meaningless which enables them greater freedom to be creative.

In conclusion the future looks exciting.  Everything seems to indicate that this generation has the potential to work together creatively to solve the ever increasingly complex problems that the world faces.  Of course it could become the ultimate me generation but I am hopefully that it will be a force to be reckoned with and like many of the delegates on the day, I found the findings that the speaker shared with us very refreshing.  I would love to hear your thoughts.


  1. I wonder if there was anything said to support the notion that Gen Y will adopt a #paperless working environment. For 20+ years we have been talking about the arrival of the #paperless office environment ... cloud makes this a reality, but will it be mainstream for next generation?

  2. Hello LadyBizBiz - there was a lot of discussion about the difference that cloud makes but not in terms of the paperless office; more in terms of the ease with which people can now set up businesses and how Gen Ys are doing this all over the world particularly in places like China and India because there are next to no set up costs now.